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Dark City Beneath the Beat film still, dancers, yellow backdrop
Photograph: SuppliedDark City Beneath the Beat streaming now at MIFF

Dark City Beneath the Beat

★★★★★: Baltimore’s brilliant club sound reverberates loud and proud in this music video/doco fusion

By Stephen A Russell
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If you’re looking for a gloriously frenetic way to whip up your weekend, then treat yourself to Dark City Beneath the Beat. Currently screening digitally as part of MIFF 2020 it's rising star rapper and producer TT the Artist's propulsive love letter to Baltimore’s banging music scene. Not since the Pope of Trash himself, John Waters, has a director captured with such irreverent glee the crackling creative energy emanating from that city’s streets.

Coming in at just a squeak over 60 minutes, this whip-smart blast is so much more than a standard issue, talking heads doco. It’s a testament to the frenetic energy of the “Bmore’ sound and the hallowed clubs that pound it out. A deeply personal insight into TT's own struggles in her rise to the top, it also addresses her reluctant acceptance of the pull towards LA to progress her career. She elicits candid insights into racial inequality and artistic creativity from a dazzling array of other have-a-go heroes, including DJ Mighty Mark, TSU Dance Crew founder TSU Terry, dance-driven mentor Uneek, and jazz-lifting rapper Olu Butterfly.

Brilliantly, the film also snaps seamlessly into fluoro-coloured music video breakouts, almost as if this unguarded look at the neighbourhoods explored and the artists adored is a technicoloured musical. Sure, it candidly addresses gun crime and police brutality, but it also takes these trials and reclaims them, turning resistance and resilience into a triumph. One dance interlude addressing stop and search and the death of a young man is jaw-dropping. Insecure creator Issa Rae is a credited producer, and she dropped a TT track on the latest series. TT is an adept filmmaker with a keen eye and ear for what makes music and the souls behind it sing, and she navigates entangled strands like a seasoned veteran. That this is her debut, ably backed by fellow newcomer and music video cinematographer Kirby Griffin, is a staggering achievement. Dark City demands you pump up the volume and blast it out loud and alive.

Dark City Beneath the Beat is now streaming at 2020.miff.com.au

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